For The Birds: Connecting Resources

When clients don't behave as expected

This picture is of a bird sitting on top of a fake owl. The bird regularly attacks the window of this office. The owl was put there to frighten the smaller bird away, and keep it from banging its head against the window.

It’s not working out too well — for anyone.

In my mind, it’s an apt metaphor for many hypnotherapy and NLP clients. They are ‘beating their head against a window’, (a behavior they want to change). They’ve tried things that make sense, and those things haven’t worked. That’s why they’ve come to see us.

Generally, it’s because they’ve got some programming running unconsciously.  And naturally, they’re not experts on how to change unconscious programming.

It’s our job as therapists, to help them adjust, at an unconscious level, in order to help them reach their goal, and change their behavior.

There are lots of ways to hypnotically connect resources

One way that’s often useful is to think of a client as someone who already has the resources to solve their own problem, but they need help connecting up the right resource for the job.

A person with a fear of public speaking typically has the ability to speak calmly and with confidence to their best friend. They just need help connecting that ability to the public speaking context.

Fortunately, hypnosis and NLP are incredible tools for linking things together (hypnotic suggestion and anchoring are both explicit linking techniques).

But how do these problems get started in the first place? And why can’t clients hook up their own resources, without our help?

The Brain Contextualizes

We learn at a young age that certain things are acceptable only in certain situations. We act differently on the playground than we do in class. When we’re in the grocery store and say loudly, “Mommy, why is that man so fat?’, mommy tells us to be quiet. But we know mommy said the same thing about the neighbor, when we were at home.

We may go into the doctor’s office, take off our clothes, put on a paper gown and wait for the doctor. But we never do that in the mechanic’s office.

Basically, we develop beliefs, habits, behaviors, and emotions related to specific situations. It’s a good thing. It’s the reason why we don’t run down the street naked — we understand that, in a normal context, it’s not appropriate.

We learn these (often) unconscious rules, and ninety percent of the time (made-up statistic), it works just fine.

But sometimes this unconscious programming doesn’t work so well

Maybe during a high school speech class, when we’re under a lot of pressure to get a good grade, we don’t do well. Then our mind can use it’s linking ability to link things together, to link anxiety, to speaking in front of a group. Then we may develop beliefs around it. “I don’t do well with groups”, etc.

They try the obvious things; preparing for the speech, or making up their mind to push through the fear, but those things don’t always work.

So they come to us, as clients.

We can help them connect the feeling of speaking comfortably, to the context of public speaking. Or, we can help them link the feeling of relaxation to the thing that used to trigger their smoking. Or, we can link the feeling of connection to a lost loved one, to the thought of that person.

Whatever the issue, the process is the same.

Find a feeling, strategy, or state that is incompatible with the problem state, and link it to whatever used to trigger the problem. That’s the basics of it.


PS: I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard from someone who claims to know about birds, that the bird is attacking its own reflection in the window. In that case, treating the window would likely be more of an effective deterrent than a fake owl. To me, this indicates how understanding the structure of a problem can lead to solutions, and how inaccurate theories about causes can lead to fruitless attempts at solutions.

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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